Early red card sees Bulls lose their grip on the trophy

All good things must come to an end as Banbury Bulls lost their grip on the Oxon RFU County Cup.

Justin Parker makes an early break for Banbury Bulls before his controversial red card against Oxford Harlequins. Photo: Simon Grieve
Justin Parker makes an early break for Banbury Bulls before his controversial red card against Oxford Harlequins. Photo: Simon Grieve

Bulls have won the cup for the last four years but Oxford Harlequins knocked them out in Saturday’s semi-final at the DCS Stadium.

Harlequins won 20-17 as Bulls failed to overcome the loss of Justin Parker for a controversial red card after only ten minutes.

Tommy Gray, Joe Mills and Tom Eyston were all ruled out from last weekend’s win but there were welcome returns for Parker, James Jennings and Nick Pratt to the starting line-up.

The opening ten minutes were fairly even with both teams making trips to the opposition 22 before Parker was shown a straight red card, the referee indicating a stamp from the scrum-half. It didn’t look like a stamp and more an attempt to get the man lying on the ball out the way. Either way, it was a huge decision in a semi-final which even the Quins players admitted seemed harsh afterwards.

Bulls took time to adjust to Parker’s departure and Quins took full advantage of the fractured defence with Antonio Turetta making the most of the man advantage to go over and Dan Todd added the extras.

Allan Purchase was yellow carded for Quins for a deliberate knock-on when Bulls had numbers out wide. Bulls kicked the resulting penalty into the corner and from the five metre line-out Chris Davies found his target before gathering the ball at the back of a rolling maul and touching down.

Dan Brady scored a diving effort in the corner to give Bulls the lead just before the halftime whistle.

When Purchase back on at the start of the second half the numerical advantage evened things up. Quins scored through a rolling maul of their own with the backs joining the forwards to drive Turetta over.

Bulls responded when Jack Briggs won a penalty in the opposition 22. From the resulting scrum the backs showed some great skill to release Tom Burman through a gap before touching down under the posts and Ed Phillips added the extras.

Quins got a slice of luck to draw level when a kick in their own half was charged down but landed perfectly for Turetta to break into the Banbury half. Turetta drew the last man before off-loading to Johnnie Henderson to score in the corner.

Keiran Fitzgibbon was yellow carded after a high tackle and, down to 13, it looked an impossible task for Bulls. Dan Todd kicked a penalty with less than five minutes left.

Bulls were camped in the opposition 22 for the remainder of the tie. Jack Todd was yellow carded for collapsing a rolling maul that was heading for the line but the Quins defence held on and when Bulls knocked-on the full-time whistle followed.